Recently, 37-year-old Maggie Gyllenhaal was told that she was too old to play the love interest of a man in his 50s. Older men starring opposite younger women is so commonplace in Hollywood that no one bats an eye when it happens, yet when the roles are reversed and the woman is older than the man, its so unique that we give a name to it like "MILF" or "Cougar".
Here, we're going to take a look at just some of the more significant age gaps in major Hollywood films, specifically looking at actors who regularly appear opposite younger women or who have done some films with wide age differences. We are excluding films where the difference in age is a driving point of the film, and focusing on instances where the difference in age is a minimal aspect to the overall story, or not addressed all.
For the most part, Steve Carell's cinematic run in romantic situations has him paired off with women around his age. And while Steve Carell isn't the same level of leading man as others on this list, he does have three films that are worth noting. In all three cases, the age gap between leading man and leading lady is two decades or more, hence "The 20 Year Trifecta".
'Get Smart' - 20 years older than Anne Hathaway.
'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World' - 22 years Keira Knightly.
'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' - 21 years older than Olivia Wilde.
Well, he doesn't look his age
Once Johnny Depp hit leading man status, his on-screen loves, and few behind the scenes loves, ended up with a notable difference in ages. While his closest age gap with a lady was a single year between himself and Juliette Binoche in 'Chocolat', Depp's more notable roles pit him with much younger women, likely due to the fact that at 50 he still looks like he's in his 30s.
'Edward Scissorhands' - 8 years older than Winona Ryder.
'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' - 10 years than Juliette Lewis.
'Sleepy Hollow' - 17 years older than Christina Ricci.
'Blow' - 11 years older than Penelope Cruz.
'The Rum Diary' - 23 years older than Amber Heard.
'Dark Shadows' - 24 years older than Bella Heathcote, and 17 years older than Eva Green.
'Transcendence' - 19 years older than Rebecca Hall.
"Bond, James Bond"
The old saying goes that with James Bond, men want to be him and women want to be with him. When Connery started the franchise, his Bond Girls tended to stay around his age for the most part, but once we got Roger Moore, it became a trend for Bond to like the younger ladies. As for Brosnan, that was blatant in each of his four runs as 007.
'Goldeneye' - 17 years older than Izabella Scorupco, and 12 years older than Famke Janssen.
'Tomorrow Never Dies' - 10 years older than Michelle Yeoh and 12 years older than Teri Hatcher.
'The World is Not Enough' - 14 years older than Sophie Marceau and 16 years older than Denise Richards.
'Die Another Day' - 14 years older than Halle Berry and 26 years older than Rosamund Pike.
"Bond, Grandpa Bond"
The third man to play James Bond started at an age advantage to most of his leading ladies, with a 24 year age gap between Moore and Jane Seymour in 'Live and Let Die'. But its his later years as Bond that we focus on here. Not only did fans feel that Moore was getting too old to believably be the agent with a license to kill, the age differences between he and his Bond Girls made audiences, and even Roger Moore, a little uncomfortable.
'For Your Eyes Only' - 30 years older than Carole Bouquet and 31 years older than Lynn-Holly Johnson.
'A View to a Kill' - 28 years older than Tanya Roberts and 20 years older than Grace Jones.
Life imitates art imitates life
Tom Cruise's career and love life have interestingly mirrored each other, starting off with Cruise being the younger party, and gradually leading up to a considerable age gap. While Cruise's career started with older love interests in 'Losin' It', 'Risky Business', and 'Top Gun', Cruise's first wife, Mimi Rogers, was 7 years his senior. Cruise then went on to marry Nicole Kidman, 5 years his junior, then Katie Holmes, who was born the same year Cruise got his driver's license. Recently, rumors suggest that Cruise has been seeing fellow Scientologist Laura Prepon, 17 years younger than himself, while his leading ladies are around the same age.
'Rock of Ages' - 16 years older than Malin Akerman.
'Oblivion' - 17 years older than Olga Kurylenko.
'Edge of Tomorrow' - 20 years older than Emily Blunt.
Just about his whole career
There doesn't seem to be a time where Harrison Ford wasn't the older man in a cinematic relationship, kicking off his career with a 14 year gap between Han Solo and Princess Leia, and bleeding off into his personal life, marrying a woman 22 years younger, Calista Flockhart.
'Raiders of the Lost Ark' - 9 years older than Karen Allen.
'Blade Runner' - 17 years older than Sean Young.
'Witness' - 15 years older than Kelly McGillis.
'Working Girl' - 15 years older than Melanie Griffith.
'Regarding Henry' - 15 years older than Annette Bening.
'Sabrina' - 23 years older than Julia Osmond.
'Six Days Seven Nights' - 26 years older than Anne Heche.
'What Lies Beneath' - 16 years older than Michelle Pfeiffer.
Denzel got game!
While Denzel Washington is better known as a leading man by being one of the greatest actors of his generation, its easy to overlook than he's been a romantic leading man on more than one occasion, and does tend to get paired up with women much, much younger.
'The Preacher's Wife' - 8 years older than Whitney Houston.
'He Got Game' - 21 years older than Milla Jovovich.
'Remember the Titans' - 16 years older than Nicole Ari Parker.
'Training Day' - 19 years older than Eva Mendes.
'Deja Vu' - 21 years older than Paula Patton.
'American Gangster' - 23 years older than Lymari Nadal.
'Flight' - 22 years older than Kelly Reilly.
Teddy Bears and younger women
For the most part, Mark Wahlberg has been a leading man with women around his own age, even being the younger man in instances like 'Boogie Nights' and 'Rock Star'. But when Wahlberg started playing opposite a CGI Teddy Bear, the age of his ladies took a dive.
'Ted' and 'Max Payne' - 12 years older than Mila Kunis.
'Ted 2' - 14 years older than Amanda Seyfried.
Pretty Woman, Older Dude
Richard Gere age compared to his leading ladies have an interesting pattern, starting off with considerable gaps, being the younger man opposite Susan Sarandon in 'Shall We Dance', then going back to being the older man, with the largest gap in age quite recently.
'Pretty Woman' - 18 years older than Julia Roberts.
'Sommersby' - 13 years older than Jodie Foster.
'First Knight' - 15 years older than Julia Osmond.
'Autumn in New York' - 22 years older than Winona Ryder.
'The Hoax' - 21 years older than Julie Delpy.
'Nights in Rodanthe' and 'Unfaithful' - 16 years older than Diane Lane.
'Amelia' - 25 years older than Hilary Swank.
'Arbitrage' - 29 years older than Laetitia Casta.
Older man, just fine. Older woman, no way!
This single film makes the list with an age gap smaller than just about every film we've mentioned, but is the perfect example of the double standard in Hollywood.
While 'Batman Forever' was still set to star Michael Keaton, Rene Russo, only two years younger, was attached to play Dr. Meridian. When Val Kilmer was brought in as the new Batman, Rene Russo was deemed too old to play his love interest, being 6 years older than Kilmer. So to replace Russo they cast Nicole Kidman, who is 8 years younger than Kilmer.